The changes that took place in the Georgian era had the effect of making the Regency era the Golden Age of Foxhunting. Faster hounds and horses that could jump at a gallop made the sport more exciting and more dangerous. Instead of foxhunters having to dig the fox out of its hole, the faster hounds would chase him up a tree—treeing—so that he could be thrown down to the dogs below. The first man up to the kill—the brusher—received the brush of the fox for his efforts. The brusher would be capped by the other hunters, that is he would collect half a crown or so for his triumph.
Foxhunting was not only for the upper classes. Mr. Gunter, the London confectioner known for his ices, was a foxhunting fiend. Captain Gronow says:
“Everybody knows the story of Gunter the pastry-cook. He was mounted on a runaway horse with the King’s hounds, and excused himself for riding against Alvanley by saying, ‘O my lord, I can’t hold him, he’s so hot!’ ‘Ice him, Gunter—ice him’ was the consoling rejoinder.”
The journalist Nimrod in Sporting Magazine wrote that what is needed to be a good foxhunter is a good seat and a light hand. Also important is cool confidence and perception. A good foxhunter was “game to the back bone.”
An article in The Beau Monde in 1807 stated that:
“The duration of the chace should never be less than one hour, nor ought it to exceed two, which will, in most cases, be found sufficiently long if properly followed. Indeed, very few fox-chaces would ever exceed two hours if there were not a fault somewhere, either in the day, the huntsman, or the hounds.”
Some devoted foxhunters rode to the hounds six days a week. The best foxhunting was during January, February, and March, because the fox left the strongest scent during the cold weather.
The Duke of Wellington kept a stud of eight horses and hunted nearly every day on the Peninsula. He wore a blue frock coat given him by Lady Salisbury instead of the traditional red. Beau Brummell was an indifferent hunter, because he couldn’t bear to sully his rig with mud.
The enormous expense of maintaining a pack of hounds made private packs out of reach for most. The Duke of Rutland was one exception, but most people paid a subscription fee to a master who organized hunts. The Quorn might have around 200 subscribers, while smaller packs might have 50. In general, the neighborhood supported their hunting meets, but if the master allowed the hunters to destroy fields without compensating the local farmers, he might find his foxes hunted and killed by angry farmers in retribution.
Fox hunts normally started at ten or eleven in the morning, with hunters, horses, hounds, and liveried servants gathering at inns, markets, crossroads, or the lawns of stately homes. Hunters could wear what they chose, but the traditional dress was a red or black coat with white leather breeches, top boots, and a silk hat.
Regency ladies did not ride to the hunt in general, because the sidesaddle used at the time was not steady enough to be safe for galloping over bullfinches and hedgerows. This changed in the 1830’s after the development of a sidesaddle with three crutches that would secure the thigh. Exceptions were Lady Laetitia Lade and Lady Salisbury. But the truth is, most men didn’t want to hunt with the ladies because they were either too slow or better than the men, which was not acceptable either.
Laudermilk, Sharon H. and Hamlin, Theresa L., The Regency Companion, Garland Publishing, 1989.
The Regency Gentleman series
The Regency Gentleman: His Upbringing
The Rise and Fall of Beau Brummell
Gentlemen’s Clubs in Regency London
Gentlemen’s Sports in the Regency
The Gentleman’s Passion for Horses
Another fabulous post, Susanna. I love this stuff!
Fun post. Hadn’t heard of “treeing” before.
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Thanks great post